Workplace Well-Being

It’s Just Hair

All taken within 24 hours: depressed, coping, and “normal”

Having a mood disorder is exhausting.

Everyone has different experiences with mental illness. I go through periods of hypomania where I feel invincible, only to crash shortly after and become susceptible to depressive episodes. When I’m manic, I feel like I need to broadcast all of my thoughts to the world and start a million different projects. When depression takes over, I become overwhelmed from the over-commitment caused by my manic self and struggle to accomplish even the most basic self-care tasks.

While I’ve been released from professional treatment, having a mood disorder is still a lifelong diagnosis. I will still experience extreme fluctuations in my mood, but now I am better equipped to detect and cope with my symptoms. As a high-functioning individual in a highly-visible professional role, when in the midst of a depressive episode I tend to go through periods of self-sabotage where other parts of my life come secondary in order to ensure my work performance remains consistent.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a story about a hairstylist who provided a complete transformation to a client suffering from major depression. The woman had gone 6 months without brushing or maintaining her hair, and the stylist spent over 8 hours attempting to restore some normalcy to her client’s life. While I’ve never had an episode this extreme, it was highly relatable. Daily tasks such as grooming, taking out the trash, or shopping for groceries can seem impossible to someone deep in a depressive state.

Growing up I always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. In High School, like many girls my age, I would spend hours straightening my hair, and desperately avoid situations where my natural waves would peek through. Luckily, when I went off to college I learned to embrace my natural waves in all of their impossibly thick glory. I’ve had people stop me in public to compliment the length and texture, and to ask me what my secret is (it’s a good scalp massage in the shower and a microfiber towel to dry, btw).

The tragic thing about having long, luscious locks is that the longer it gets, the harder it is to take care of. (And if you’ve been paying any attention these last few minutes, you’ll know where this anecdote is headed). Yesterday I woke up nearly 2 weeks into a depressive episode and realized that I was becoming the girl from the hair transformation story. While certainly not to the same extreme, making myself look presentable on a daily basis had been becoming a struggle. I had two choices: either continue the cycle of self-sabotage, or to change my circumstances. I chose the latter. I was lucky enough to find a nearby salon that could accommodate the 3 hour ordeal that is a cut and color on short notice, and afterwards felt like a weight had been lifted (in this case the weight was 5+ inches of mostly split ends).

I’m not suggesting that a haircut cures depression, but becoming in-tune with and making time for whatever self-care rituals may be important to you is essential to maintaining optimal mental wellness; instead of cutting hair, you may need to cut out a person, a toxic environment, or a bad habit. It’s hard to feel in control when you’re deep in a depressive state, but know that only you know what your best self feels like and the amount of strength it takes to get there.

Originally posted on Blogspot May 26, 2018

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1 thought on “It’s Just Hair”

  1. Alyssa–thank you for sharing! I go through similar episodes albeit they are not as extreme and as fast as yours but similar in nature. Its true that our outward appearance has a way to infiltrate our inner feelings and help us push past what we see/feel in the immediate as sometimes impossible to overcome.

    Like

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